A General Framework for the Evaluation of Direct Nonoxidative Methane Conversion Strategies
We study single-step natural gas conversion technologies that directly convert methane to olefins and higher hydrocarbons. Despite the relative simplicity of these technologies, the development of processes based on these approaches remains challenging. Accordingly, we utilize process synthesis, modeling, and optimization to assess the economic feasibility of direct nonoxidative methane conversion strategies. We develop a flexible approach that allows for the systematic evaluation of various technology alternatives and for the identification of the key technology gaps that must be overcome. The results of our analyses demonstrate that an economically feasible direct methane conversion process is contingent upon fundamental research advances in the area of catalytic conversion to increase methane conversion to hydrocarbon products (e.g., coke formation less than 20% and a minimum conversion to products of 25%). Upon this development, further efforts can be devoted to improve ethylene selectivity as well as reduce catalyst cost and overall capital costs.